Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 24 March 2004
The Hon Bob Cameron MP
Minister for Agriculture
Level 17, 8 Nicholson Street
East Melbourne VIC 3002
I am writing to you as the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Victorian Rock Lobster Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In February 2003 the Victorian Department of Primary Industries submitted the document Assessment of the Victorian Rock Lobster Fishery against the Commonwealth Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries for assessment under the Act.
The submission has been assessed for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13 and the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act.
I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at: http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.
I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fishery require that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed and the level of interactions with such species in the fishery is not likely to adversely affect the conservation status of protected species or the survival and recovery of listed threatened species. Hence, the management regime for the Victorian Rock Lobster Fishery meets the requirements of Part 13 of the EPBC Act and I propose to accredit the management regime accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management regime are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species in Commonwealth waters.
I am satisfied that for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions in Part 13A of the EPBC Act, the management arrangements provide the basis for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I therefore propose to amend the list of exempt native specimens, to include specimens that are or are derived from fish or invertebrates taken in the Victorian Rock Lobster Fishery, excluding specimens that are listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, for a period of five years. Such listing will serve to exempt the fishery from export controls of the EPBC Act, providing the fishery continues not to involve the export of specimens listed on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.
The management arrangements for the fishery meet the Australian Government's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery is well managed under a comprehensive, adaptable and precautionary regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. The combination of management arrangements, data gathering, proposed research and nature of the fishery allows confidence that the fishery managers will maintain low bycatch levels, minimise interaction with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.
While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that the Department of Primary Industries is addressing them adequately. Officers from our two departments have discussed some key areas requiring ongoing attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on ensuring the continuation of good management practices, to be implemented before the next Australian Government review of the fishery.
These recommendations, attached to this letter, have been an important factor in my decision to exempt the fishery and I look forward to receiving your confirmation that they will be implemented.
I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment.
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
24th March 2004
Recommendations to the Victorian Department of Primary Industries on the ecologically sustainable management of the Victorian Rock Lobster Fishery
The Victorian Rock Lobster Fishery is a well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. These measure include:
- A comprehensive suite of output and input controls for the target species;
- Comprehensive fishery dependent and independent monitoring programs;
- Robust review process, including annual stock assessments;
- Performance measurement, including predictive modelling;
- Various gear restrictions and closed areas that aim to minimise the impact of the fishery on non-target species; and
- A proactive approach to mitigating protected species interactions.
The following recommendations have been made to further strengthen the effectiveness of the management arrangements for the fishery and minimise environmental risks in the medium to longer term. The Department of Primary Industries should action these recommendations before the next review in 2009.
Recommendation 1: DPI to inform DEH of any future amendments to the Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan, related management documents or managerial commitments made in the submission.
Recommendation 2: DPI to develop formal collaborative arrangements and pursue complementary management arrangements with other Australian jurisdictions responsible for managing southern rock lobster fisheries to ensure that all removals and other relevant impacts on the stock are considered as part of the stock assessment process.
Recommendation 3: DPI to refine the estimates of all components of non-commercial catch in the fishery to ensure reliable estimates of all removals are obtained on a regular basis and are included in the annual stock assessment process and management of the fishery. Consideration should be given to conducting further periodic surveys or other data collection and analysis measures to enhance the assessments of recreational, illegal and indigenous catch in the fishery.
Recommendation 4: DPI and the Victorian industry to work with their South Australian counterparts to investigate and adopt appropriate measures to address quota avoidance, misreporting of catches and other illegal activities in waters near the Victorian-South Australian border. These measures should be built into the Compliance Strategy required under the Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan.
Recommendation 5: DPI to conduct a compliance risk assessment to determine whether compliance and enforcement capabilities with respect to area closures are adequate. The Compliance Strategy is to be amended to address any deficiencies identified through the risk assessment.
Recommendation 6: DPI to review the appropriateness of the performance measures used to monitor the status of the rock lobster stock, especially that relating to the limit reference point in the eastern zone, as part of the review of the Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan commencing in 2007. DPI to continue to conduct an annual assessment of the status of the eastern zone in relation to the spawning biomass limit reference point and if a downward trend in the spawning biomass is identified, management actions to rectify will be implemented immediately.
Recommendation 7: DPI to implement a monitoring program to collect data on all byproduct and bycatch species. DPI to use this data to validate byproduct data collected on daily catch records. If the ecological risk assessment identifies any bycatch species as high risk, DPI to develop and implement, in conjunction with industry, specific monitoring of these species.
Recommendation 8: DPI to review the current performance measures and management triggers for byproduct species to ensure they are suitably precautionary, based upon the best available scientific data and contain clear timeframes and defined management actions. DPI to develop performance measures and management triggers, for all bycatch species identified as high risk in the ecological risk assessment and all remaining byproduct species, that are based on the best available scientific information.
Recommendation 9: DPI to introduce mandatory structured reporting of all interactions between the rock lobster fishery and endangered, threatened or protected species prior to the 2005 fishing season.
Recommendation 10: DPI and industry to monitor the extent of the interactions between the rock lobster fishery and fur seals. If the monitoring and/or ecological risk assessment identifies seals as a high risk, DPI to establish trigger and reference points within 2 years. DPI and industry to develop and implement appropriate mitigation measures to minimise these interactions as appropriate.
Recommendation 11: DPI to develop measures to assess ecosystem impacts of the fishery, including consideration of the results of the ecological risk assessment planned for 2004-05.